I have been guilty of thinking that Monkey knows his numbers really well, in fact he’s been able to count to 10 since the age of 18 months. I hadn’t really given much thought to it since, focusing more on vocabulary and more recently phonics. When a friend sent me an article covering off what in an ideal world a child should be able to do before going to Kindergarten panic set in! You can read the full article here.

In summary it was saying that the most important preschool math topics are:

  1. Counting real objects one by one accurately (ideally up to 30)
  2. Counting aloud – by rote (ideally up to 100)
  3. Recognising dot patterns on number dice
  4. Recognising numbers 1-10 out of order and basic shapes
  5. Sorting
  6. Patterning

Panic – now don’t get me wrong I want to raise a happy, active, imaginative kid but I also want to make sure he is in the best position possible when he goes to school. We will be making our school selection in the next couple of months and I have always had a fixation about Monkey being a Summer born baby and the impact that this may or may not have on his schooling. I am glad my friend passed me this now!

Simple counting activity for a 3 year oldMonkey is great with sorting, he can recognise basic shapes (one of our favourite activities which combines both of these can be found here) and we play a fair amount of dice games so he knows the dots. However as far as counting is concerned we have only really rote counted out loud,  he can get up to twenty with some help, but we very rarely count physical items. Patterning although in my head has never made it into any activities…..yet.

For the next few months we are going to focus on the first two bullet points since they go well together. With this in mind I set up a very simple counting activity. Using some coloured card, a sharpie and Learning Resources Counting Bears. Monkey got the bears for his Birthday but we haven’t had them out yet. Straight away he was drawn to the different colours and sizes. Made from hard plastic they are surprisingly tactile, he started to sort them while I wrote out the number cards. In the set we have there are 96 in total in six different colours and three different sizes. I can see us using them a lot in future maths activities.

I literally wrote 1-10 on the cards and laid them in a line and asked Monkey to put the right number of bears under each corresponding number, counting out loud.

Simple counting activity for a 3 year old

It took a lot longer than I thought it would. 1-3 he did with no intervention at all then at 4 he started to need to count from the beginning. I realised very quickly his number recognition is not very good, he knows 1-3 and 5 after that he struggles. In all it took about 20 minutes to get from 1 to 10, when finished he wanted to go on and do the next set of numbers straight away (11-20). But I think we need some more practice on the first ten, and I need to work on his number recognition. I have fallen into the mistake of thinking he knows his numbers, wrong, he can count. But he does not know his numbers. However I am confident that over the next few months he will improve, I am just glad I realised now, time to get the ladybirds out…

I have set up a Pinterest board on counting activities below:

What do you do with your little ones to help with number recognition?

Mudpie xx

Domesticated Momster


  1. From 18 months! Wow, that’s impressive. Great activity to learn from though, will try this out when my LO is a bit older. #toddlerapprovedtuesday

  2. Yes!!! Numbers are crazy hard to learn but colour / simplistic approach and it would seem coloured bears are the way forward. As for what he ‘should know’, I wouldn’t panic – it’s better that what he does know he knows well, so I think you’re right to crack 1-10 first. A lovely activity

    • Aw thanks lovely, I’ve been surprised with his improvement, completely agree re the quality over quantity, thank you for stopping by xx

  3. chloelifeunexpected Reply

    This is a great activity, although now you’ve got me panicking because Evie is 18 months old and can say ‘2’ and ‘4’ and can recognise numbers but can’t say them or count up. We have a wooden puzzle which has numbers in and she can put the numbers 1-10 individually back in the puzzle without or supervision, but she definitely can’t count up yet *gulps*. I’m checking out your pinterest board for inspiration now. We definitely need to do more with numbers. x #toddlerapprovedtuesday

    • I wonder if it’s better than they recognise them before they can count? I’m not sure as have no training at all in this. Monkey learnt to count because his childminder at the time rote learnt him, I didn’t. But my gut feeling (right or wrong) is if they can understand what they are counting then it will stick better and be easier for them to count further than 10 when the time comes. Please don’t panic – although I did! If she can recognise them then she’s doing fantastic 🙂 personally I would much prefer that level of understanding than just being able to repeat something parrot fashion!! Xx

  4. What a great idea and so lovely that he was really excited about it -sometimes i think that is half the battle! Becky #ToddlerApprovedTuesday

  5. Pingback: DIY Light Table Numbers | Mudpie Fridays

  6. I too paniced when I got the “kindergarten” list to knows! But after everyone assuring me that everything will be fine I realized they were right. There were no lists before I started kindergarten and I can read, write, do math, and have a pretty good bit of common sense. I think we all learn at our own pace and there’s just too much emphasis put on “is your child smart enough”. Don’t stress too much! Thanks for sharing with #momsterslink…I do love the idea for this activity! I wil be pinning it to my kids activity board on Pinterest :0)

    • Thanks Trista you are completely right it was just that initial panic! Thank you for hosting will be checking out your Pinterest board xx

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